Becoming Jesus

Tom Bartolomeo
Christmas A 2013
Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 98;
Hebrews 1: 1-6 John 1: 1-18
Reproduced with Permission

Though he was in the form of God,
Jesus did not deem equality with God
something to be grasped at.

Rather, he emptied himself
and took the form of a slave,
being born in the likeness of men.
(Philippians 2: 6-7)

"He emptied himself and took the form of a slave," the Apostle Paul recounted. A servant at the service of others his Apostle John recalled in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and the life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to his own, but his own did not accept him . . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us . . . . (John 1: 1-14).

He came to his own, but his own people did not accept him . . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us . . . . (Ibid.). Astonishing! that the Word of God, the Son of God, the Light of the World chose to empty himself of all his prerogatives as God to live among us. He could have done it differently. Many of his people were waiting and praying for a Messiah but not an empty Messiah devoid of any real power for himself especially coming as an infant. His power was reserved for others, not himself, those who would accept him as he was as a man, vulnerable and empty. Every miracle, every entreaty he received he referred to his Father in prayer not as his divine Son but as the Son of Man. He had no advantage before God, no advantage more than we have which he decided to accept.

Often we think we can excuse our moral difficulties believing God will understand. Like Jesus in the Garden sweating blood - how many of us have sweat blood? - knowing the agony awaiting: his disciples in flight, writhing on a cross and his creatures mocking him, "save yourself if you can . . . [hah]" to be comforted by a criminal on a cross next to his cross before he breathes his last breathe? (Matthew 27: 40). Jesus had prayed to his Father the evening before: that "this cup" of suffering "pass from him", but his Father said, No. (Matthew 26: 29-32). Becoming Jesus, we will see how that evolves between Christmas and Easter morning when we meet again three months and eighteen days from now. There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. "What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary." (Bamley and Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, 1871).

We are here to celebrate the Christ who can fill our emptiness with his own if we are not too full of ourselves. I would admit that this life often seems hard, unendurable at times but less so to the patient, the humble and the meek who seek a more fulfilling life with God. Much of Jesus' time spent here with us as man was decided by others who sought him out and he adapted his life to theirs. I can not recall once when he decided to exercise his power except for the benefit of others - his travels interrupted by the blind, the crippled, the sick and the possessed as they did at Peter's home curing a paralytic breaking through the roof followed by an exhaustive day of problem-solving concluded late into the night at prayer with his Father and then off to other villages. (Mark 1: 29-39). After a rare respite on a mountain with Moses, Elijah and three bewildered Apostles he descended the mountainous retreat to settle an argument with a man complaining that his disciples could not cure his son which Jesus then obliged the boy's father after he told Jesus, "if you can do anything". When asked by his disciples, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" [Jesus] replied, "Because you have so little faith." Following this Jesus returned to Capernaum, Peter's hometown, where he had helped so many people before when Peter is asked by a tax collector, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" (Some things never change, I suppose.) Jesus, however, didn't argue and had Peter 'go fishing' for the money and told him, You will find "a fourdrachma coin" in a fish's mouth to pay both our taxes. (Mark 9: 14-29). Unless it was a matter of faith and morals Jesus' didn't argue or fuss as we often do. Jesus as a man had hope in a future beyond this world, had it as a boy working with his step-father, Joseph, had it with the hard-handedness of his Apostles and his enemies and has it with us. We just don't like change of any kind because we don't get to decide. Becoming Jesus was his Father's idea. Becoming Jesus as His Son is also our Father's idea.

So many of Jesus' parables center on servants and their service. Christ filled his emptiness with our trouble without complaint because he made us and accepted the work of his hands although we brought trouble upon ourselves. Those who eventually turn towards him will find peace in his emptiness. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11: 29). Our hearts are often hard, stubborn and unwilling to change because it would require an emptying of our self-righteous selves, the furthest thing from a small child who is open to everything. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19: 14). Jesus did not exaggerate. Jesus took the empty shell of a man, the old Adam, and made him into a new man, a new Adam, by fusing our human nature with his divine nature in one person, God's intent, actually, before the beginning of creation. The only real obstacle to our union with God is our stubbornness and pretense that we are full without him. This is the good news God sent angels to announce to humble shepherds in a field near a stable in Bethlehem.